Two players with a flair for overtime dramatics came through for the University of Maine hockey team Saturday night.
Senior left wing Mitch Fossier scored his fourth career overtime goal with 52.3 seconds left in the extra session Saturday night to give the Black Bears an important 1-0 Hockey East victory over the University of Connecticut at Alfond Arena.
Fossier scored with a one-timer from the right faceoff circle off a feed from linemate Tim Doherty to help UMaine improve to 5-0-4 in overtime games this season. Each has figured in four of the game-winners with a goal and three assists apiece.
The Black Bears (16-10-4 overall, 10-8-2 HE) received a superb 41-save outing from junior goalie Jeremy Swayman while snapping UConn’s five-game unbeaten streak against them (4-0-1).
UConn (12-13-4, 9-8-2 HE) had beaten UMaine 3-2 on Friday night.
Junior defenseman J.D. Greenway set the winning play in motion when he swept the puck off the boards from the neutral zone past a couple of Huskies and into the UConn zone. Doherty had just come onto the ice on a line change and gathered it in with nobody around him on the left side of the ice.
“J.D. put it into a perfect spot. I thought I had a mini-breakaway but as soon as I turned my head, I saw [Fossier] and their defenseman sliding. He slid a little too far so I saucered the puck over his stick and arm to [Fossier] and he made a great play,” Doherty said.
Fossier said he indicated to Doherty he had time to make a play.
“[Doherty] was able to look up and make a great pass to me. [My shot] wasn’t a thing of beauty. I think it went five-hole,” Fossier said. “I got a lot on it.”
Fossier’s goal was his eighth of the year.
“We turned the puck over in the neutral zone and were making a line change at the same time,” said UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh, whose team outshot UMaine 41-26.
“I was very happy with our effort. Anytime you can outshoot Maine 41-26 up here [you’ve done well]. They made a play to win it at the end,” Cavanaugh said.
“I thought we deserved to come out of here with more than two points this weekend,” he added.
Swayman finished with 22 Grade-A [high-percentage] saves among his 41 as he notched his first shutout since a 31-save 3-0 win at Boston University on Jan. 6, 2018.
“I tip my cap to Swayman,” Cavanaugh said. “He might be the best goalie in the league. He’s at least in the conversation. He’s really, really good.”
Swayman made two rapid-fire saves in the third period when he first stopped Brian Rigali, who sliced across the top of the crease from left to right, and then rejected Jachym Kondelik’s point-blank follow-up.
“I just tried to cover the top third of the net [on Kondelik’s shot]. He lifted it,” Swayman said.
Swayman, a fourth-round draft pick of the Boston Bruins, credited his teammates for their performance in front of him.
“Without a doubt, we were defense-first tonight,” Swayman said. “I was really happy with their effort. I wouldn’t have had [a shutout] without them. They were selling out for me: blocking shots and making sure they were covering their men.”
UMaine coach Red Gendron called it a huge win and said his team’s defensive performance was night and day better than Friday night’s.
“It was a real battle out there. Every inch of ice was contested by both teams,” he said. “We were a much better version of the Maine Black Bears tonight.”
Fossier had a power-play goal waved off with 2:41 remaining when it was ruled that Eduards Tralmaks interfered with UConn goalie Tomas Vomacka, who also played well and finished with 25 saves including 12 Grade-A’s.
Fossier called UConn one of the best teams UMaine has played.
“They’re very stingy. They swarm everything and we couldn’t get any odd-man rushes,” Fossier said.
UMaine entertains Vermont (3-21-5, 0-16-3 HE) next Friday night at 7 and and Saturday at 4 p.m.